Pre-Olympic Ups and Downs

After a disappointing start to my second trimester of World Cup racing (there are few biathlon scenarios more painful than shooting 0,4), it was time once again, for me to do the ol’ biathlon rebound! You would think this would get easier, but so far in my experience it does not. I think nowadays it takes more to knock me down, but once I’m down, it’s still just as hard to get back up. In these moments, I usually reach out to my shooting coaches for a suggestion of something to actively work on. Having an explicit mission on the range helps me focus on the shooting process rather than the outcome. It’s the difference between “follow through on the trigger squeeze” and “really try to hit.” The former is much more effective in producing good shots, but the latter is as pervasive as it is illusive!

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Meet Sepp, a self-declared “Bavarian Cowboy” who is our team driver every year at the World Cup in Ruhpolding, Germany.
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Behind the scenes in Ruhpolding: each World Cup venue provides cabins like these for teams to store equipment, prepare skis, etc. We usually rent two of these shipping-container-cabins.
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The stadium in Ruhpolding.

With renewed confidence in my race plan I set out on the women’s 15k Individual at World Cup 5 in Ruhpolding. In this race format, athletes shoot four times (prone, standing, prone, standing) and each miss results in a 1-minute time penalty. I shot 0,1,0,2 and was very happy with my performance. The result– 57th place– is definitely not what I’m looking for but I had zero complaints about putting together my best shooting and skiing of the season. A few days later in my team’s first women’s relay of the year, I cleaned standing! It was my first time so far this year, and coming on the heels of my 4-miss blunder in Oberhof, I was pretty happy with this edition of the biathlon rebound!

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As seen on Eurovision!
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Post-race in Ruhpolding! Finally a “normal” race in the 15k Individual with decent shooting and skiing!
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Finally we had four women on the World Cup and were able to participate in the 4x6k women’s relay! A good day for our team.

Next up we headed to World Cup 6 in Antholz, my favorite stop on the tour. And this time we arrived on scene with our newly-named 2018 Olympic Team. Susan and I were joined by Joanne Reid, Emily Dreissigacker, and Maddie Phaneuf. A precocious junior athlete, Chloe Levins, just missed this year’s Olympic team but I have no doubt you’ll see her in future editions, should she choose to continue on her star-studded path!

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New record for number of women in a World Cup wax cabin! L-R: Clare, Emily, Chloe, Maddie, Susan, Joanne.
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Sunny Antholz, with the TV camera filming from the top of the crane!
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Trailside sign with my favorite slogan from my favorite fan club!

In the sprint race in Antholz, I got kind of foiled by the wind (or maybe just shot badly?) in prone and missed 2. That’s a rough start in the sprint– a race format in which I know I can only afford a couple of misses if I want to finish in the top 60 and qualify for the pursuit. In standing, everything went great until I missed my last shot. With three misses, I wasn’t sure I had a chance but I really pushed on the last lap, and when all was said and done I was in 56th. I would live another day! My pursuit race started off great– I shot clean in prone (0,0) and moved into the top 40, then missed only 1 (my last shot again!!!) in the first standing stage, and then in the final stage, something crazy happened! My legs started shaking like I was standing on some kind of vibrating platform. I took forever and really fought for my shots but still ended up missing 2. I left the range behind a young French athlete, Justine Braisaz, who is one of the fastest skiers on the biathlon World Cup. I have never been able to stay with her before, but on that day, I could and I did, all the way to the finish!

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I moved up almost 30 places in the Antholz pursuit race. Photo: Kenny Whitebloom

My friends Maura and Kenny flew all the way from the US to watch the races in Antholz, which was AWESOME!!! My boyfriend was also in town, coaching our IBU Cup team, so the four of us were able to spend some time together.

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Behind the scenes Antholz: Who wore it best? My teammate Sean Doherty and I are really twinning this year, especially with our matching haircuts.

After the races in Antholz, I took the train to the Italian city of Trento where I spent a few days off touring the city by myself. I really needed the break after three straight weeks of on time.

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Trento, Italy.

I headed back to the mountains on Wednesday to meet up with our IBU Cup team for European Championships. Since my season hasn’t been going that well and I haven’t qualified for many races, I decided I wanted to get a few more competitions in before the Olympics.

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Ridnaun, Italy

Ridnaun is really beautiful, and the site of my first clean biathlon race back in 2015. I was really looking forward to another opportunity for a good race! But that all went down the drain when I came into shoot prone and the buckle on my sling broke! The sling (pictured below) is a vital piece of equipment for prone shooting. Biathletes wear a cuff around their upper arm, to which this sling hooks, in order to stabilize the rifle. It’s so taught that it effectively eliminates the need for you to use your bicep to hold up the rifle. So without the sling, it is extremely wobbly. When my sling fell apart, I didn’t think I had any chance to hit any of the targets but I actually hit 2! With 3 penalty loops right away in prone I wasn’t sure if I would make the pursuit but I just tried to have a good time and I even waved to my boyfriend from the penalty loop! I missed 1 more in standing and finished in the 70’s so not my best shooting or skiing either.

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One really fun part of the weekend was reconnecting with my friend Joris. He used to be responsible for all the biathlon Eurovision broadcasts so I would see him weekly all winter long, but since he got a promotion he now manages other sports as well and I hadn’t bumped into him at all this season. It was a pleasant surprise to see a familiar face on the trail! He showed me around the Eurovision broadcasting station live on-scene in Ridnaun!

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Joris at the helm of the Eurovision studio on site at European Championships in Ridnaun, Italy.
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Eurovision audio booth.

Here’s a sign that made me laugh:

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German phonetic spelling. Also seen: “Couch & Athlet”

And a photo of some of my favorite people whom I don’t get to see all that often because we are on different racing circuits:

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Eurovan front seat selfie! Don’t worry I put it in park before snapping. L-R: Jean, Erik, Clare, Chloe.

After the races in Ridnaun, I went back to Germany for our pre-Olympic training camp. Right away, I started to get sick and ended up spending the entire week quarantined in a little cabin with meals being delivered to me three times per day. I left only for an occasional 15-minute walk. It was awful and sad. So much for preparing for the Olympics. I still may do okay, but I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll be skiing my best. With the broken sling and illness behind me, I’m eager to focus on better things like:

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My idea for an A Capella group for Olympians. Graphic design by Hannah Dreissigacker.

I am in Korea now, still quarantined in a different hotel from my team. It’s been 10 days. I am feeling totally fine now, only in my voice you can hear some residual congestion. Tomorrow I have permission to finally rejoin my team and start training again. My first race is in 5 days.

My next blogpost will include pictures from the Olympics!

In the meantime, stay informed about what’s going on the anti-doping world. it’s been a tragic week for clean sport. This article sums up how I feel.

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2 Replies to “Pre-Olympic Ups and Downs”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences! It is so exciting to read all about this! You have moved mountains to get where you are. Keep up the great work and we will see you in the winners circle! Love from all the Marvins💕

    Like

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